A Complexity Science Primer:
What is Complexity Science and Why Should I Learn About It?
Edgeware: Lessons From Complexity Science for Health Care Leaders
, by Brenda Zimmerman, Curt Lindberg, and Paul Plsek, 1998, Dallas,TX: VHA Inc. (available by calling toll-free 866-822-5571 or throughAmazon.com)
This paper is called a 'primer' because it is intended to be a first step in understanding complexity science. In house painting, the primer or prime coat is not the finished surface. A room with a primer on the walls often looks worse than before the painting began. The patchy surface allows us to see some of the old paint but the new paint is not yet obvious. It is not the completed image we want to create. But it creates the conditions for a smoother application of the other coats of paint, for a deeper or richer color, and amore coherent and consistent finish. As you read this primer, keep this image in mind.This paper is not the finished product. Ideas and concepts are mentioned but only given aquick brush stroke in this primer. You will need to look to the other resources in this kit to get a richer color of complexity.
Complexity science reframes our view of many systems which are only partiallyunderstood by traditional scientific insights. Systems as apparently diverse as stock markets, human bodies, forest ecosystems, manufacturing businesses, immune systems,termite colonies, and hospitals seem to share some patterns of behavior. These shared patterns of behavior provide insights into sustainability, viability, health, and innovation.Leaders and managers in organizations of all types are using complexity science todiscover new ways of working.Why would leaders be interested incomplexity science?In a recent research project with healthcare executives, weuncovered twointer-related reasonsfor the interest:frustration andresonance.
"At first learning about complexity science and what it suggested about leadership was confusing, even stressful. Once I began tolearn it, to understand it, and to discuss it with other professionals, it began to make sense... I really believe in it... Incomplexity science I'm learning that leaders of modernorganizations have got to take on a different roles - especially inthis health care revolution." John Kopicki, CEO,Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center, Plainfield, NJ.